The DWP drops itself in the sh*t by boasting about how ‘helpful’ Universal Credit is for businesses

DWP logo and a pub called the Cricketers Inn
Andrea Needham

The DWP has deleted a tweet it posted. It featured a businessman claiming that Universal Credit is “great” for his business as it allows him to have a “flexible workforce”. The tweet quoted Brian Keeling-Whiting, one of the directors of pub company Whiting and Hammond:

Tweet from DWP with photo of Brian Keeling-Whiting

The DWP’s tweet wasn’t well received, with people suggesting that Universal Credit was subsidising low-paying employers:

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Tweet from @Dr_Polly_Hill

Tweet from @0Calamity

Tweet from @QNymph

Tweet from @pmobsligo

A 2015 report found that in-work benefits were costing the government £11bn a year.

“I’m not sure where this quote has come from”

Keeling-Whiting was quick to distance himself from the DWP’s tweet:

Tweet from @Whiting_Hammond

His claim that “I’m not sure where this quote has come from” is odd, though. Because a photo of him, alongside part of the same quote, appears in the DWP’s ‘Employer Guide to Universal Credit‘. The publication tells employers that Universal Credit will help in “managing your workforce”, allowing claimants to be “flexible about their hours”. Which sounds an awful lot like a zero-hours contract.

It didn’t take long for someone to point his inclusion in the guide out to Keeling-Whiting:

A tweet from @WillcoxJoe

He subsequently published a follow-up tweet:

Tweet from @Whiting_Hammond

“Fair and proper wage”?

Keeling-Whiting’s claim that his company pays “a fair and proper wage” is open to debate. Jobs advertised on Whiting and Hammond’s website include “part time bar and waiting crew” at the Cricketers Inn in Meopham at a rate of “up to £7.50 per hour”. There are similar jobs at the Kings Head near Sevenoaks for “up to £7.20 per hour”:

An advert for staff at the King's Head

The national minimum wage is £7.83 an hour for over-25s.

Damage limitation

Eventually, Keeling-Whiting removed his tweets altogether. The DWP also removed its tweet.

The fact is, Keeling-Whiting is correct. Universal Credit is “great” for business. It allows companies to pay the lowest possible wages, and to employ people on insecure or zero-hours contracts, safe in the knowledge that – if people are lucky – the taxpayer will top up their wages. For businesses, it’s a win-win situation.

Featured image via Barry Marsh – Wikimedia /UK Government – Wikimedia

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